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Mind Your Manners

7 Feb

Assemble a large group of people together in one location and watch the displays of manners.  At times when my awareness is heightened, I ask myself, are things really this bad? Are people, young and old, really this rude — and must we tolerate these behaviors in our schools? 

Could it be that I am alone in thinking that manners, those cultural and behavioral norms of the past, are irrelevant for today? Has neo-American culture replaced politeness, neatness, wholesome language in public and even chivalry? Have we encouraged our next generation to practice boorishness and crudeness?

I am curious as to when things changed enough to tolerate the wearing of baseball-type caps inside of buildings, in restaurants and in school classrooms?  Also, would someone tell me why T-shirts and bare feet are allowed on golf courses? I have seen my share of each of these. 

Where are manners, these days?  When people burp, others think it’s funny. Children scream in stores and are allowed to roam freely.  Are we teaching our young people to think of anyone but themselves?  Are families so stressed out that precious little time is spent actually drawing contrasts in culture for children? 

Has anyone else noticed fewer and fewer people actually hold doors open for others?  What about the phrases, “Excuse me,” “Thank you” and, “You are welcome?” Apparently, these phrases are becoming parliamentary dinosaurs.  Also, few people return lost items to those whom they know, let alone to strangers. If they do return an item at all, most people feel entitled to lift anything of value, because of their “good deed” as some jaded “finders-keepers, losers-weepers” notion.

Do parents really want their young people filling their minds with abusive talk about women, especially preached by today’s rappers? When was the last time we looked into the music downloaded on our child’s computer, on his or her iPod or CDs? I am sad to report that any manners and respect we might be teaching are probably being undone by other forces. Are these neo-American cultural norms?

Thomas D’Urfrey, reasoned: “He that hath more manners than he ought, is more a fool than he thought.” 

I don’t agree.  All stuffiness aside, can we have a little couth please? And while we are at it, might we add a little more of the Golden Rule? 

“Do unto others as we would have them do unto us” seems to have changed meanings today. The current meaning reads more like “Do unto others before they do unto you.” I could be wrong, but the general sense among today’s students is that self is held in higher esteem than the feelings of others. How about a little common good?

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” I think Emerson was onto something. What is sacrificed by not burping loudly in a restaurant?  Who is a loser by allowing someone to select a food item first, or check out first at a store? The incivility of some adults at sporting events, fundraisers and various competitions indicate that lack of manners is not endemic only to young people.  Add alcohol to the mix and things get worse.  If parents, teachers, coaches and other adults do not model acceptable, positive manners, where can we expect the younger generation to learn them? Seriously, what is lost by wearing a belt, pulling up one’s sagging pants, or speaking without profanity?

Now where do we place the blame for what many see as a breach of manners in our culture today?  We would all like to pin it on one group or another, and maybe some of that might be justified. However, there is no discounting the reality that there just seems to be a spirit of rudeness that stretches across our culture. 

So here’s the challenge: How do we correct ill-mannered behaviors? Specifically in schools, do we simply overlook the profanity? Do we allow students to be on their cell phones or listen to their iPods in class — both of which are in violation of school rules?

Should schools teach manners directly and positively, or indirectly as a corrective measure when a young person gets out of line? Manners, like character and morality, are best discussed at times when openness and peace exist. There is a greater acceptance in times of peace. These are what educators call “teachable moments” and they exist for us all. Teachable moments must begin at early ages and be practiced consistently and from within the fabric of the family. But difficulty exists there, too, when standards of behavior on weekends differ from weekday standards.

In closing, where can we look for help? Is it the media? Schools? The entertainment industry? 

Certainly, we can continue to blame the traditional whipping posts. There are no easy pinpoints on this one. But we can begin to shape the world one person at a time.  Answers do lie in the possibilities of all of our cultural agencies working together. But we must ask:  Is it possible that the cultural wealth of America’s past can once again become valuable over the present culture of selfishness and material wealth?

Storms Are Blessings

7 Feb

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)

Life is such an interesting pilgrimage.  The moment we think we possess it, it turns back around to illustrate the reality of its possession of us.  There are people we come in contact with in this life whose inconsistencies of friendship are extremely tiring and trying.  There are others who come into our lives for a season, due to life’s hardships, a connection through empathy, or some other personal challenge.  There are still others whose purpose in life is to fight, argue, and play power games, mostly in “thorny” ways.  I am hard pressed to find things that occur in life that are purely circumstantial and happenstance.  Normally what happens is the result of issues with people.

I guess I am “purpose-driven,” “passion-focused,” and even spiritual in many ways.  But I am as human as the next guy, and admittedly just as prone to error, if not careful.  Even with the best of care, I will fall short in some way or another.

In terms of the storms of life, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or interpersonal . . . it’s nice to know we all have a “rock” to which to cling.  It is quite obvious to the perceptive ones when people disregard their safety and security and place it in areas where the footing is wobbly, or unstable.  I understand this well, as I’ve been there myself.

When people persecute you, it is not YOU they persecute.  The persecution is aimed AT you, but is truly directed at your spirit, your heart, and your integrity.  If there was nothing in you or your character that was worthy of destroying, no one would waste the effort.  No one is a hero to the masses for persecuting anyone.  Yet, in one’s own eyes, he is deified, bolstered by just a few with louder voices.  These louder voices overtake those who are quiet.  During storms, the wind seems overpowering, true.  Yet, as well as know, there is more calm and peace than there is storminess.

Regardless the storm, here is my early morning set of deductions.

1.  People are hurting and lonely and so they lash out in attempts to either latch on, or try to bring down those whom they think have it all together at the moment.

2.  Storms pass, head into other areas, and those who have endured can send out warnings and survival guides.

3.  Persecution is not personal, it is issue-oriented, philosophy-attached, and normally is the result of confrontation.  People who find it difficult to separate issues from the people sharing them, have deep-seated personal issues.

4.  The manifestation of hatred means there is an inability to come to terms with deeper issues in a person’s life.  Most are aware of the wreckage left behind, yet pretend to move on like, receiving “It’s all going to be ok” from a group of “adjusters.”

5.  Persecution leaves real damage, some recoverable, and some not.

6.  It is fruitless to scream at persecution, inasmuch as it is wasted effort to yell at the storm.

7.  Knowing where to make one’s home and the conditions which cause storms are essential.

8.  Emotional hurts and scarring are forever, but living with them, through them, and beyond them is all right.  I call this condition the tattooing phase.  Persecution is art for the soul.

9.  Storms batter in the same way that fire refines.  Sometimes cleansing and purging are taken to extremes.

10.  The storm clouds always dissipate to yield the bright, blue sky, and the golden rays of sunshine.  It is at these moments, when light hits the wreckage, can we begin to rebuild and regain the confidence of outward actions, which stem from the assurance of the spirit within.

Who or what is YOUR rock during times of persecution, or stormy trials?  Also important:  WHO ARE YOU?

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